By: Brad Bergefurd, Extension Educator
There are nearly 8,000 farmers markets in the U.S., an increase of more than 150 percent since 2000. Direct-to-consumer agriculture sales produce $1.2 billion in annual revenues. To be successful in your agricultural business an important thing is to have a good marketing plan. The Ohio State University South Centers leads Ohio’s Direct Agricultural Marketing program and has many resources available to assist producers with resources and educational opportunities to assist with their direct agricultural marketing plans.
Launched in 2008, one very important resource is Ohio MarketMaker which currently hosts one of the most extensive collections of searchable food industry-related data in the country. The web based program contains demographic, food consumption, and business data that users can search to find products to buy, or find a place to sell their products.
MarketMaker currently links producers and consumers in 19 states plus the District of Columbia. As the exclusive licensee, Riverside Research plans to invest in additional research and development to expand MarketMakers capabilities to new markets and regions, both nationally and globally. States that are currently participating include: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming.
At the beginning of 2014, MarketMaker contained almost 700,000 businesses in categories of AgTourism, Farmers/Ranchers, Fisheries, Farmers Markets, Wineries, Eating & Drinking, Wholesalers, Food Retailers, Food Banks, and Other. In 2013, users posted 442 advertisements in the Buy & Sell Forum which were viewed over 36,000 times.
If you don’t have an online profile, you can set one up in less than 10 minutes at www.ohiomarketmaker.com. There is no fee to register; it is totally free to both consumers and producers. Your profile is easy to maintain and manage, and allows you to connect with local, state and national customers and buyers. Some of the features available are: indicating which farmers’ markets you’ll be participating in, which restaurants you sell to, which grocery stores carry your products and your affiliation with local food organizations.
MarketMaker has many unique features that allow the consumers and producers to present themselves to other MarketMaker users. Using the business connection feature, market managers, consumers and producers can link with one another and other organizations that have also developed MarketMaker profiles, including grocery stores, restaurants, and schools. The link serves the mutual benefit of identifying users of local food sources. Businesses you connect with on MarketMaker appear on your business’s detail page to let users know more about your operation. You may want to connect with a variety of businesses, including: retailers or farmers’ markets that carry your product, businesses where you source product, and other local food businesses.
Another unique feature is the connection of industry affiliations. Buyers and sellers can select their current affiliations. These affiliations help to build credibility with customers. Some of these could include: Ohio Proud, CIFT, Ohio Grocers Association, and others.
In today’s world, social networking plays a huge factor in marketing. MarketMaker also has the feature of connecting your Facebook and Twitter social links to your profile. Connecting your profile to these sites helps to build your audience and customer base while networking with others in the industry.
Farmers markets may also create a profile in MarketMaker. Farmers market managers can easily create profiles with location, web site, contact information and produce available. The advanced directional mapping tools allows customers to easily find the market and view the types of products that the market has for sale. This feature brings buyers to the market, and saves the buyers time on locating the products they need.
MarketMaker is supported by several state and national sponsors. These sponsors are the USDA, Farm Credit, Ohio Wines, Ohio Farm Bureau, the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, and the Ohio State University.
For further information on Ohio MarketMaker or Direct Agricultural Marketing visit the following Ohio State University Direct Marketing web site at http://southcenters.osu.edu/marketing/overview-programs/marketmaker. If you would like to be added to the Ohio Direct Marketing list serve to receive direct marketing updates and educational opportunities contact Interim OSU Direct Marketing Team leader Brad Bergefurd, Bergefurd.firstname.lastname@example.org or Ohio MarketMaker Program Coordinator Charissa McGlothin email@example.com or call the OSU South Centers 1-800-860-7232 or 740-289-3727 extension #132.